(NaturalHealth365) Grape skins and grape seeds, long considered the detritus of winemaking, have customarily been discarded – often ending up in landfills. Now, a team of food scientists and nutrition professors tells us that this is an unfortunate waste of valuable resources; both grape skins and grape seeds are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants that can be utilized to promote human health.
For example, did you know that resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grape skins has been scientifically shown to inhibit cancer cell growth?
A simple enzyme treatment increases antioxidant activity
In a new study conducted by researchers at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at University of Florida and published in the February 2014 edition of Food Science, powdered grape skins and seeds – then soaked the material in a solution of enzymes, including cellulose, pectinase and glucosidae.
The team found that this treatment substantially increased the antioxidant capacity of phenolics – or beneficial plant compounds – found in the leftover organic material. Researchers noted that the study raised hopes that discarded grape skins could be turned into healthful food additives and nutritional supplements, as well as providing a new, completely natural preservative.
The food industry currently uses synthetic antioxidants to prolong shelf life and protect flavor as well as the appearance of food.
Muscadine grapes are disease-fighting dynamos
The study was conducted using the castoff materials from muscadine grapes. Scientifically known as Vitis rotundifolia, muscadine grapes thrive in the southern United States, where they are traditionally made into delicious jams, jellies and wines. Scientists believe that the muscadines’ particularly thick skins – comprising up to 40 percent of the fruit’s weight – are the secret to this hardy grape’s extreme resistance to fungal diseases and insect pests.
The team had hoped the enzyme treatment would make it easier to free up the phenolics in the muscadine skins and seeds. The enzyme soak actually had the effect of decreasing phenolic content. But Maurice Marshall, study co-author and a human nutrition professor at the University of Florida, reported an intriguing twist – the process substantially improved the remaining phenolics’ antioxidant activity.
Grape antioxidants proven to prevent high blood pressure and certain types of cancer
Resveratrol, a grape phenolic, has long been recognized as capable of providing many health benefits, among them a reduced risk of heart disease and the prevention of certain cancers. Resveratrol has also been shown in many studies to help control atherosclerosis, arthritis and autoimmune disorders.
And, no less an authoritative source than New York University Langone Medical Center credits the oligeric proanthocyanidins, found in grape seeds, with helping to treat chronic venous insufficiency and swelling.
More emerging research shows that resveratrol “starves” cancer cells
In a new study conducted at the University of Virginia and published online in the May 2014 edition of Journal of the European Molecular Biology Organization, researchers found that resveratrol “starves” human cancer cells by inhibiting the workings of B (Nf-kB), or nuclear factor-kappa B, a protein common to all living cells that provides nourishment. The team discovered that the reaction the reservatrol induced in the B(Nf-kB) protein caused it to no longer nourish cancer cells; instead, it caused them to self-destruct, a process known as apoptosis.
However, when it comes to red wine and disease prevention, scientists say “the dosage makes the medicine” – or the toxin.
The proper amount of resveratrol for disease prevention is finely calibrated. Researchers report that you can gain the maximum benefits by drinking a single glass of red wine three or four times a week. Drinking more than that torpedoes the beneficial effect, and actually leads to higher risk of cancer.
It’s not necessary to ingest alcoholic drinks to raise your resveratrol intake; this health-promoting phenolic is found in quite a few foods, including raspberries, grapes, mulberries and peanuts.
The takeaway is clear – scientists hope to eventually use reclaimed grape castoffs to produce healthful new additives and supplements. Until that occurs, it can do no harm to enjoy fresh, organic grapes, raspberries, cranberries, blueberries and other phenolic-rich foods – both for their delicious flavors and their disease-fighting properties.